Season premiere of ‘Game of Thrones’ was very Canadian

Pop Goes The News — The season 6 premiere of Game of Thrones on April 24 was quite possibly the most Canadian episode ever.

It was directed by a native of Ontario, partly filmed in Alberta, and packed with visual effects done in British Columbia and Quebec. It was also subsidized by Canadian taxpayers.

The highly-anticipated return of HBO’s global hit series —  an episode titled “The Red Woman” — was directed by Toronto’s Jeremy Podeswa.

A graduate of the film studies program at Ryerson University, Podeswa made the award-winning 1999 Canadian film The Five Senses and 2007’s Fugitive Pieces. He moved into television, helming episodes of made-in-Toronto series Queer As Folk and Wonderfalls before heading south to direct episodes of shows like True Blood, The Walking Dead and Homeland.

Podeswa earned an Emmy nomination last year for one of the two Game of Thrones episodes he directed in season 5.

Other Canadians have worked behind the scenes on Game of Thrones, including Nova Scotia’s Paula Fairfield, a sound designer on 30 episodes in seasons 3 to 5. (She won an Emmy this year as part of the team responsible for the season 5 episode “Hardhome.”)

The return of Game of Thrones also featured several scenes featuring Quigly, an Arctic wolf from Instinct Animals for Film north of Calgary.

The nine-year-old wolf, trained by Andrew Simpson, plays Jon Snow’s loyal Ghost.

Quigly’s scenes for this season of Game of Thrones were filmed over 10 days in January at the Calgary Film Centre — allowing producers to take advantage of the Alberta Media Fund. It covers up to 30 per cent of costs incurred in the province.

Quebec taxpayers also have a stake in Game of Thrones. The show benefits from the Quebec Production Services Tax Credit — a refund of about 25 per cent of costs — because many of its visual effects are created at Montreal-based Rodeo FX.

A team of 35, supervised by Ara Khanikian and Matthew Rousseau at the company’s Griffintown studio, is responsible for a lot of what viewers see on Game of Thrones. Rodeo FX has won a pair of Emmys for its work on the series.

Also involved in Game of Thrones is Vancouver-based Image Engine, where Mat Krentz supervises about a dozen visual effects artists. It benefits from a 17.5 per cent refundable tax credit.

Of course, by using Canadian talent, Game of Thrones is also assisted by the 16 per cent Canadian Film or Video Production Services Tax Credit and a low Canadian dollar.

Although primarily shot in Ireland, Croatia, Iceland and Spain, the series prominently acknowledges the Canadian contributions in its closing credits.